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40 Under 40 Winner of the day: Heather Gale

People

Heather Gale’s career began with a question: what makes the economy tick? The 37-year-old is now treasurer at People’s Choice Credit Union and was last month named a winner in InDaily’s inaugural 40 Under 40 Awards.

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The financial services professional began working as a member services officer at People’s Choice Credit Union in 1999 and steadily climbed the ranks before becoming treasurer in 2014.

Gale now has oversight and strategic leadership of a wholesale funding portfolio in excess of $1.8 billion and investment portfolio of more than $750 million.

Given that very few financial institutions administer their treasury functions in South Australia, this means her role is among the most significant of its kind in the state.

We asked the Certified Practising Accountant (CPA) some more about doing business in South Australia.

What do you believe are the strengths of doing business in South Australia?

There are lots of strengths of doing business in the state that are too often overlooked.

I believe that being smaller than the eastern states is actually a strength, although we often don’t see it that way. Being smaller allows a greater level of agility; it allows us to adapt, change and take advantage of opportunities.

There’s also a greater sense of connection between businesses. There’s a lot of pride in our state and a common desire to see South Australia and its businesses succeed. Doing business in SA makes you part of an interconnected community that will support your business as it grows and expands. We should promote this interconnection as a key advantage of the state.

We have world-class universities providing access to research and highly skilled graduates. This, combined with the State Government’s focus on fostering innovation, makes SA an ideal place for high-tech businesses and start-ups.

What do you believe are the weak points of conducting business in South Australia?

Our biggest hurdle is how we’re perceived by the rest of the country. We need to sell the South Australian story more.

The reality is that people in other states often only think about South Australia in connection with negative stories such as the loss of auto manufacturing or power instability. They don’t see that these things are a small part of our story and don’t define the opportunities the state offers.

If we’re going to encourage more businesses to make SA their home or to invest in the state we need to work hard to promote our strengths.

Do you see your future in South Australia?

Absolutely. I made the decision very early in my career that I didn’t need to move away to be successful. Financial services are very much centred in the eastern states, and so I have at times challenged myself on that decision. However, I have always come back to the fact that the opportunities I’ve received in South Australia – specifically at People’s Choice – wouldn’t have been afforded elsewhere.

I think that there’s so much opportunity in South Australia to grow, learn and be involved in really interesting work. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.

How can the state encourage more of its young leaders to stay?

There’s a lot of focus on keeping graduates in the state, which is of course vitally important. However, I think there’s an equal challenge in keeping leaders looking to move into a senior or executive role. I think SA businesses need to actively invest in their young leaders and look for opportunities to promote internally rather than hiring interstate candidates. We should value the diversity that young leaders bring to the table at a senior level. I think that the State Government is on the right path in keeping young leaders here as they work to draw innovation investment to the state. But it’s up to individual businesses to make the tangible change in how they value and grow their leaders.

More about 40 Under 40

An assessment panel representing the South Australian business community judged hundreds of nominees for the inaugural 40 Under 40 awards, which aim to identify and promote a new generation of local leaders under the age of 40.

The final 40 includes a hugely varied collection of South Australian talents, who are making a mark in fields such as health, technology, the media, property, social innovation, agriculture, finance, the law, and much more.

For the full list of 40 Under 40 winners go here.

40 Under 40 is an InDaily initiative supported by the following partners:

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